Monday, October 22, 2012

So, You Want to Teach?

Anna Zhuo is an education student who has been assigned to read and comment on my blog. In her last comment she asked, "What advice would you give to a future educator?" Instead of responding in the comments, I decided the answer to that question was worthy of a blog post. 

Dear Future Educator,
Welcome to a challenging, creative and meaningful life journey. Although teaching is a way to earn a living, it is not a job. Teaching is a craft. Like any artist, you will spend your entire life obsessing over and honing your work.

•Find a mentor. Seek out a teacher or teachers you admire, someone whose classroom appeals to you. Learn from them.

•Learn from everyone. Copy what you like. Avoid what you don't like. Adapt things so they work for your students.

•Become reflective. When something goes badly, treat it like a puzzle to solve. Write about it. Talk about it. Ask your students about it. Do it over in a different way.

•Know yourself. You will bring your core values into your classroom so know where you stand and what you believe.

•As you are learning from everyone, being reflective about your teaching and knowing your core values, celebrate yourself as a learner. Share your learning with others, especially your students. Be in love with learning. Study it. As you learn new things, pay attention to how you learn them.

•Practice what you teach. If you teach reading and writing, read and write. Stay current with your subject or subjects. It is not enough that you graduated from college. That is just the beginning.

•Work within your circle of influence. The circle of influence is an idea from Stephen Covey's,  7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Highly effective people are proactive. Proactive people focus on things over which they have control. As a teacher there will be many things over which you have no control. Spend your energy on those things that you can control.

•Be prepared to work very hard. Be prepared for people to not understand how hard you work. Try not to take it personally when people say things like, "How great that you get your summers off" or "Teaching- how noble" or when people think you are patient just because you are a teacher.

•Take care of yourself. You are the conductor of energy in the room so your energy matters. Get enough sleep. Find time to exercise and relax. Have a life outside of teaching.

Your craft is the art of learning. And learning is the art of living.
Teaching is not easy. You might sometimes wish you worked at the carwash instead.
But remember that you are touching lives.

What advice do you have for future teachers? Please add your thoughts.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Creating a Target- A Work in Progress

Our "teaching & learning team" formerly known as the "21st century learning team" (it IS 2012) is working together to create a structure to support our school's growth and change. Our process this year started with reading and discussing Jim Knight's book Unmistakable Impact. According to this book, one of the foundations of the impact schools theory is a collaboratively-created one-page target. 

The amazing thing about learning/reading/discussing together is that we are able to take these ideas and work with them in the real world of OUR school. 

So, the one-page target. Last year, we found a rubric called "Evidence of Learning in the 21st Century Classroom" which we used as a starting point. We spent some time re-visioning and re-writing it for our purposes. By "we" I mean two of us, the "21st century learning team." We introduced it to the faculty. We reviewed it as part of our inservice day. After I began reading Unmistakable Impact with #educoach, and became convinced that the target should fit on one page, we shortened it from detailed rubric to just the headings and sub-headings. 
When I worked on professional development plans with teachers this year, I connected each plan to one of the domains on the rubric. 

But still. 
It was presented to the faculty, not created by the faculty. So we have decided to go back to the drawing board and try to do this the right way, with input from anyone who is interested in adding their ideas.

What we have now has six pages of details in addition to the one page summary. It assumes background knowledge that teachers may or may not have. In lieu of already having the background understanding, we have included references to several other documents. 
Here is the one-page summary:

I am hopeful that we are on the right track and that, once we have a group-sourced, one-page target, we will be that much closer to a structure that guides and supports us in the continual effort toward improving teaching and learning. 


Friday, October 12, 2012

Read to Someone

As I continue coaching the Daily 5 implementation, part of my coaching work is to document the process.
This video is my first attempt at creating a video completely on the iPad. Clips were recorded using the iPad and edited in iMovie. Just for fun, I created the little title sequence in a fun new app I am playing with called Video Scribe.

Daily 5- Read To Someone from MJGDS Classrooms on Vimeo.

Thinking about the video itself-
1. I LOVE the iPad as a video creation tool. The iMovie app took a little getting used to, but it could not be any easier. So. much. potential!
2. I think it's a little longish in the middle (the "Coaching or Time?" lesson might have been edited a bit more.
3. I don't love the music I chose for the Video Scribe sequence, but I do really like how polished that little bit of animation is, and so easy to create.

What does the video show about the Daily 5?
1. My favorite parts, of course, are where the kids are doing "read to someone." I saw genuine engagement in either reading aloud or following along by almost all of the students for the entire time.
2. I also love (although the filming is a little rough and probably could have used some more titles) how the kids modeled choosing a partner by following the carefully outlined steps:
-Raise your hand
-Look around for someone else with a raised hand.
-Make eye contact with the person.
-Walk over to the other person and say, "Will you please be my partner?"
-Person responds enthusiastically, "Sure. Thank you."
3. I also love how the Daily 5 turns each student into a reading coach by giving explicit directions, strategies and modeling.

Just a few general thoughts and reflections:
1. Nothing is ever simple. Or maybe it's that nothing worthwhile is simple. I believe in simplicity. I crave it. I thought the Daily 5 was simple. A no-brainer. Kids read and write. Teachers confer and teach. Grouping is flexible. Maybe my revelation is that what appears to be simple appears that way only because of the complexity that creates or enables it. Does that make any sense?
2. I love the fundamentals of this process. LOVE them. The best part is watching how it is working-the careful explanations and modeling, the trust in students, the staying out of the way.
3. In preparation for our Parent Connect, where we invited parents to come learn about the Daily 5, I searched back through lots of old materials I used when I worked for CRLP. I found this article, by John Shefelbine, that I think gives great evidence for the Daily 5.